Zak Pedersen Drawing Praise For Long Snapping

The University of Illinois has turned out some outstanding long snappers over the years, several of whom have made a comfortable living playing pro ball. Even those who haven't gone on, like recent snappers Kyle Knezetic and Tad Keely, were practically perfect throughout their careers. Zak Pederson is following their footsteps.

Zak Pedersen walked onto the Illinois program out of Joliet Catholic. He now has three years to make his own mark on the Illinois program as the long snapper.

"It feels good. I played two years under Tad Keely and learned a lot from him. I feel it's just time for me to make my own way for myself. I'm looking forward to it."

Has the reality of being the one under fire for every punt and place kick added pressure to his daily workouts?

"You know, I was feeling a little pressure last summer, but the more I work with the guys the less pressure I feel. I'm trying to be calm and do my job the way I know I can do it."

Long snappers must be perfect while remaining anonymous. The only time people discuss a long snapper is when he makes a mistake because it can turn victory to defeat. He must embrace the pressure without being restricted by it.

"That's very true. You've got to take deep breaths and try to remain calm. I try to be good at that."

The 6'-2", 210 pounder got an early start on his specialty.

"I was in 6th grade. I was playing for the Joliet Titans and Coach Mike Carlson asked if I wanted to try long snapper. I said sure. So my dad, Mike Carlson and I were out there every day before practice snapping. I continued that at Joliet Catholic and got an opportunity to play here."

Since snapping requires a strong, accurate arm, some long snappers are former quarterbacks. That was not true for Pedersen.

"I wasn't a quarterback. I played offensive line. I guess that had something to do with the center position."

He feels his weight is sufficient for blocking and tackling purposes.

"I think so. I've put on about 10-15 pounds since last year. It's good weight, which is important. I think I'm at a decent weight. I could probably add about 5 pounds, but that will come with time."

While Pedersen has the talent for the role, there is always room to improve.

"Accuracy is always something you need to work on. Coach Zook has preached that. He always wants it within a box especially in the hip area (for punts). Make sure I do that, and make sure I always have a tight spiral. I'm constantly working on increasing my velocity."

Wind can play as havoc on a snap if one isn't careful.

"The wind that's at your back is going to slow you down a little bit. But I think the hardest wind to snap in is the cross wind. If you keep a tight spiral, you should be all right. It shouldn't affect it too much."

The specialists practice by themselves, but Pedersen has been able to interact with his other teammates regularly. He feels there is a lot of unity on the team.

"In spring ball, I snapped for 7 on 7's and got a little taste for the offense. In the summer we kind of did our own thing a little bit. This whole team is a pretty tight-knit group. I think the way things are going we're going to have a special year. So I'm pretty excited and looking forward to it."

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